Hitler’s Monkeys

Posted by Paul Miles on April 8, 2011

In October 1941, Godfrey ordered Montagu to investigate why the Germans had suddenly imported one thousand rhesus monkeys, as well as a troop of Barbary apes. Godfrey speculated that “it might be an indication that the Germans intended to use gas or bacteriological warfare, or for experimental purposes.”

Montagu consulted Lord Victor Rothschild, MI5’s expert on explosives, booby traps, and other conventional forms of warfare. His lordship was doubtful that the large monkey imports were sinister. “Though I have kept a close eye on people applying for animals,” he wrote, “those cases so far investigated have proved innocuous. For example, an advertisement in The Times for 500 hedgehogs proved to be in connection with the experiments being done by the foot and mouth disease research section.”

The mystery of Hitler’s monkeys remains unsolved.

from Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizzare Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured and Allied Victory, by Ben McIntyre

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Tired of Relying on Environmentalists, Walden Pond Takes Protective Measures of Its Own

Posted by Peggy Hailey on September 10, 2010

Not the Walden jellyfish, but pretty, no?

In a decidedly odd occurrence, tiny freshwater jellyfish have sprung up at Walden Pond and nobody knows how they got there.

Perhaps, as my title suggests, Walden Pond is developing its own way of protecting itself from developers, English majors, and crazy old coots trying to get away from it all.

Or maybe these tiny jellies are merely the advance scouts of the invasion to come.

I, for one, welcome our squid overlords.

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Forthcoming selections

Posted by Rick Klaw on September 9, 2010

We recently determined our selections for the rest of the year.

We meet at Flight Path at 7 PM and we’d love to see ya there. Check out our home page for more details about the Dark Forces Book Group.

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Booger Town

Posted by Paul Miles on August 4, 2010

In the course of my job, I often have to work with municipal home rule charters. Last week, I was researching the Borger, Texas charter when I stumbled on their warts and all description of the city’s history, which reads in (my favorite) part:

“Within a matter of months, oilmen, prospectors, roughnecks, panhandlers, fortune seekers, card sharks, bootleggers, prostitutes, and dope peddlers descended on Borger. “Booger Town,” as it was nicknamed, became a refuge for criminals and fugitives from the law. Before long the town government was firmly in the hands of an organized crime syndicate led by Mayor Miller’s shady associate, “Two-Gun Dick” Herwig. The center of this vice was Dixon (now Tenth) Street, notorious for its brothels, dance halls, gambling dens, slot machines, and speakeasies. Murder and robbery became commonplace. Illegal moonshine stills and home breweries flourished with the blessings of Herwig and his henchmen, including W. J. (Shine) Popejoy, the king of the Texas bootleggers.”


I honestly can’t add anything to improve that paragraph, which seems to me to contain at least three novels and two motion pictures. I will note, and maybe only Texans will get this, but apparently this town was bad enough back in the day that they sent two Texas Rangers there.

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Installment Four of “Watching the Future” Is Up

Posted by Derek Johnson on August 1, 2010

allment Four of my monthly column “Watching the Future” is up at SF Site. This time, I talk about Inception and its seemingly anomalous success among the recent plague of remakes infecting multiplexes.

Though remakes have a long history, their recent sheer numbers appear to border on epidemic. One cannot hear of movies currently in production without learning that it is a remake of this work or that. Indeed, at the recent Comic-Con director Matt Reeves defended his recent remake of Tomas Alfredson’s masterful Let the Right One In, and I have heard many fans of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy breathe a sigh of relief at the casting of Daniel Craig in the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though I immediately wondered why it needed to be remade in the first place. I cannot bear reading of some young auteur daring to remake Escape from New York, Red Dawn or Total Recall without groaning. (Total Recall, especially, was bad enough the first time; do I have the stomach to try to sit through another go?)

Read the rest here.

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Review of Inception at SF Signal

Posted by Derek Johnson on July 16, 2010

My review of Christopher Nolan’s science fiction thriller Inception is up at SF Signal, and for a change I’m actually quite positive.

Early in director Christopher Nolan’s Inception, dream extractor Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) asks architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page) to design a maze in two minutes that would take someone one minute to solve. Cobb is an extractor; along with his point man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he enters a subject’s dreams in order to extract information, a kind of Parker (from Richard Stark’s outstanding crime series) of the id and superego. In order to do so successfully, they need an individual who can not only craft the world of the subject’s dream but also maintain its balance. And they need that stability for the dream heist that drives Inception’s main plot because Cobb not only needs to enter his subject’s dream but create a dream within that dream, a feat which Cobb’s chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) believes too unstable.

Dreams and the architecture of dreams are the subjects of Inception, and it’s to Nolan’s considerable credit that he builds the movie’s dream worlds with the care and intricacy of an architect. No surprise, then, that buildings and cityscapes feature prominently: as Ariadne designs her initial dream landscapes, cities fold themselves at right angles, stairways in corporate buildings fold onto themselves in an infinite loop (calling to mind M.C. Escher’s painting “Ascending and Descending”), and two mirror cast reflections that create additional streets (reminiscent of passages in Jorge Luis Borges’s story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”). No surprise, either, that Nolan’s spends so much time taking the viewer on a tour of dream worlds and their logic that the viewer begins to worry that Nolan has not bothered to populate his own dream with interesting characters, thus dampening the viewer’s involvement with Inception’s story.

Read the rest here.

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A waste of time & money: I review Grown Ups

Posted by Rick Klaw on June 25, 2010

Over at Moving Pictures, I reviewed the latest Adam Sandler film Grown Ups.

Like the majority of Sandler’s films — he co-wrote and produced the movie — the often weak, stereotype-based jokes grind on for far too long. How many lame fat jokes (played on Kevin James, who weighs less than many Americans) does one film need? One comment about a bad toupee will elicit a chuckle, but a dozen? While the grandmother-who-farts gag worked the first time, it fell flat after the fourth iteration.

Director Dennis Dugan, whose previous credits include “Happy Gilmore,” “Beverly Hills Ninja,” “National Security,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” oversees what amounts to not much more than a tortuously long “Saturday Night Live” sketch (Sandler, Rock, Spade and Schneider all performed on the show together). The funniest moments of “Grown Ups” occur when the actors revert to their stand-up comedic roots and obviously ad lib their lines. Sadly, poor editing often diminishes these scenes with awkward cuts.

At 102 minutes, the story moves at a snail’s pace, as though the weekend-long story were actually depicted in real time. Beyond too few laughs, “Grown Ups” successfully wastes the talents of its actors and, more distressingly, the audience’s time and money.

Check out the rest of my review at Moving Pictures.

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My review of Toy Story 3

Posted by Rick Klaw on June 18, 2010

For the fine folks at Moving Pictures, I reviewed the latest Pixar movie Toy Story 3.

Save for the Oscar-winning “The Return of the King” and the classic “Goldfinger,” third installments typically disappoint. The detritus of these dismal offerings litters the film landscape: “The Godfather: Part III,” “Return of the Jedi,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Superman III” and “Shrek the Third,” to name but a few. Much like the company’s entire existence, Pixar defies traditional thought with “Toy Story 3.”

Director Lee Unkrich (co-director on “Toy Story 2”) and screenwriters Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Unkrich perfectly capture the essence of the previous movies while crafting a wholly original product. At a brisk 103 minutes, the film flows flawlessly.

The accompanying short “Day & Night,” homage to the UPA cartoons of the 1950s, cleverly incorporates traditional animation styles with the more modern Pixar method. The combination results in a clever and thoroughly entertaining cartoon.

Check out my entire review at Moving Pictures.

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An evening with Joe R. Lansdale

Posted by Rick Klaw on June 15, 2010

To celebrate the Underland Press release of  The Complete Drive-In, author Joe R. Lansdale, hisownself, will be introducing two big screen presentations based on his own works: the classic Elvis vs Mummy film, Bubba Ho-Tep, and The Masters of Horror episode “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road.”

This unique event takes place at The United States Art Authority (next store to Spiderhouse), Austin TX. Doors open at 6 and movies begin at 7. FREE admission with purchase of  The Complete Drive-In. Otherwise, $5.

Following the films, there will be a signing with Champion Joe.

Topics: Joe R. Lansdale | No Comments »

Long Overdue Updates

Posted by Derek Johnson on June 5, 2010

Okay, much to cover, so let’s crank.

For starters, we have my review of the videogame adaptation of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, titled, appropriately enough, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time at SF Signal.

Though I have not seen many, and thus am hardly an expert, I would venture a guess that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the best film adaptation of a video game since the subgenre was inaugurated in 1993 by Super Mario Bros. Considering how wretched virtually all video game movies have been, from Street Fighter and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider to recent travesties like Hitman and Max Payne, one would make the reasonable assumption that this does not mean the most recent entry is good, and one would be right. In spite of this, it manages to be more enjoyable than it has any right to be, despite its lack of originality and its forgettable execution.

Granted, writers Jordan Mechner, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard must put their characters (such as they are) through similar machinations as those in the game, which keeps their plot mired in situations all too familiar to most fans of adventure and fantastic literature, but Mike Newell’s direction often shows enough professionalism to engage the audience, taking his cues not from the game’s third person acrobatics but movie serials from the 1930s and 1940s. Often, but not consistently; action sequences frequently lapse into slow motion (all too common in action movies today) and its aesthetics never rise above the point of view of a video game, making the viewer feel as if the seat should come equipped with a PlayStation 2 controller. Its attempts to become a modern day serial thus fall short of the same noble goal reached by Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

See the rest of this entry…

Topics: SF Signal, SF Site, adaptation movie review, movies, review | No Comments »

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